40 Years of Sustainable Winegrowing
Richard Sanford came to the Santa Ynez Valley 40 years ago with
the desire to create wines that would rival the best of France. First
to recognize the potential of the Santa Rita Hills (now an officially
accredited American Viticultural Area as Sta. Rita Hills), and first
to plant Pinot Noir vines there, Richard is a pioneer with a well
established reputation for excellence in winemaking.
Working in partnership for more than 30 years, Thekla and Richard
Sanford founded multiple, successful winegrowing enterprises. Their
latest venture, Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards, represents the
culmination of a lifetime’s experience – an enterprise
dedicated to creating high quality wines and setting a benchmark
for organic farming, sustainable agriculture methods, and environment-friendly
The Sanford Story
Richard Sanford graduated from the University of California at Berkeley
with a degree in Geography in 1965. He was immediately drafted into
the military and served as a naval officer in the Vietnam war until
Returning from the war and wanting to pursue a more earth-connected
occupation, Richard dreamt of discovering a local climate zone similar
to the Burgundy region of France, growing Pinot Noir in California,
and producing wine that would rival the best in the world. Using
his background in Geography and studying the climates of California
since 1900, Richard discovered a remarkable geographic anomaly – the
transverse mountain range of California. These mountains run east
and west, and the valleys open to the west allowing cool maritime
air to blow in and moderate the growing climate.
After locating acreage with well drained soils in the chosen climate
zone Richard organized a partnership to purchase a ranch, and there
he planted the first Pinot Noir vineyard in the region (at Sanford & Benedict
Vineyard in 1970).
At that time, growing grapes of any kind in this region was unheard
of, but as it turns out, Richard’s hunch about the area was
correct. The climate allows for a long, cool growing season which
results in high acid grapes at harvest – perfect conditions
for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Since their first bottling, the wines
from this region have been known for their extraordinary balance
and depth, winning praise and accolades from wine writers and wine
In 1976 Richard met his future wife Thekla Brumder. They married
in 1978, and in 1981 they started Sanford Winery together and for
the next 27 years produced award-winning wines sold in 50 states
and 16 countries.
In 1983 the Sanfords planted their first 100% organic vineyard at
Rancho El Jabalí. The La Rinconada and La Encantada vineyards
followed, and in the year 2000 all Sanford estate vineyards were
the first in Santa Barbara County to be certified organic by the
California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF).
Differences in business philosophy led to a separation from their
namesake winery in 2005. Richard and Thekla started in a new direction,
leaving Sanford Winery to found Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards,
a new venture dedicated to organic farming and sustainable agriculture.
The vineyards of Alma Rosa are located on an original Mexican land
grant, Rancho Santa Rosa. In Spanish alma means soul; so the name
Alma Rosa reflects the Sanfords’ view that their wines are
a reflection of the soul of the rancho. Alma also expresses the soulful
connection they enjoy with one another, their employees, and the
land where they first became winegrowers more than 35 years ago.
With over 100 acres of certified organic vineyards in the Sta. Rita
Hills, Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards focuses on continued excellence
in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc,
and Pinot Noir - Vin Gris (a dry rosé). All wines are food
friendly and display the high acid, and extraordinary balance for
which Richard Sanford’s wines have been known since 1976.
With new energy and a positive focus, Richard and Thekla Sanford
are excited about Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards and hope you will
continue to enjoy their efforts in bringing you and your family together
to share good food, good wine, and a sustainable future.